|Jays, Red Devils seek ball-control offense tonight|
|Friday, November 22, 2013 9:13 PM|
By JIM METCALFE
St. John’s took about 16 minutes to really get untracked in its 42-10 Region 24 semifinal rout against Tiffin Calvert a week ago.
The eighth-seeded Blue Jays don’t want to see that happen tonight as they take on sixth-seeded Arlington in the Regional finals at Lima Stadium.
Head coach Todd Schulte looks at the offense — a one-back, 3-wide, 1-tight end look — first.
“They are big and strong up front. They open a lot of holes for their back, Austin Rettig, who has over 2,000 yards rushing,” Schulte explained. “Just in the last two weeks, he has 505 yards rushing and seven scores. They run a lot of power plays out of their set; they want to run the ball primarily.”
That will test a Blue and Gold defense — ceding 21.6 points and 341.3 yards (202.8 rushing). Linebackers Cody Looser (82 solo stops, 49 assists) and Austin Heiing (61 and 37) lead the effort, along with Evan Hays (48 and 36; 2 picks), Jordan Mohler (50 and 17; 2 picks), Tyler Jettinghoff (37 and 25), Luke MacLennan (44 and 12) and Jason Wittler (23 and 30).
“Defensively, they rotate a lot between 4-man- and 5- man fronts; they use the 5-man front usually against a tight end. We have seen a lot of different fronts but that is what we have seen the last two weeks,” Schulte continued.
The Blue Jays’ offense — averaging 25.9 points and 286.6 yards (237.2 rushing) a game — is topped by the 3-headed backfield monster of senior tailback Jettinghoff (228 rushes, 1,384 yards, 27 touchdowns; 7 grabs, 73 yards; 22.9-yard kickoff return average), senior fullback MacLennan (96 totes, 829 yards, 7; 15 catches, 251 yards. 2; 25.4-yard punt return average; 4 pancake blocks) and junior quarterback Nick Martz (122 tries, 578 yards, 5; 44-of-106 passing, 574 yards, 2 TDs, 10 picks).
Outside, his top targets are the junior Hays (8 grabs, 103 yards) and seniors Andy May (7 for 105) and Ben Wrasman (5 for 38; 36-of-42 extra points, 39 total points; 38 punts, 37.2-yard average). Up front, senior left tackle Spencer Ginter has 14 pancake blocks, along with junior left guard Wes Buettner (6) and senior center Ryan Shumaker (4).
“Controlling the line of scrimmage this week is the biggest key for both teams. We both want to run the ball, which means we have to establish the line of scrimmage,” Schulte explained. “It’s all about execution up front. Defensively, it’s about stopping their run and forcing them to drive the football.
“Also, special teams and turnovers get more and more important because if you can get a short field for your offense, that helps you a lot. As well, you want to give a long field to your opponent.”
The Jays exploded for the final 42 points in last week’s playoff win.
“When we looked at the films, it just seemed that we weren’t quite ready to play. Their 80-yard touchdown simply came because a linebacker didn’t cover the cut-back lane,” Schulte added. “We simply didn’t execute very well early on but neither the coaches nor the players panicked; we have had to fight from behind a lot this year, so everyone stayed calm. We just started to execute better and I felt we wore them down.
“Overall, we have made less and less mistakes as the season has worn on. We have gotten better at making the little adjustments on the run.”
Red Devil head coach Dick Leonard have only had three losses this season.
“We lost to playoff teams in the Blanchard Valley Conference — Liberty-Benton and McComb — and outside to Liberty Center, who just missed in Division V. We lost by five to McComb and Liberty Center and by two scores to Benton,” Leonard explained. “In the games we won, we managed to run the ball very well — that is our game — especially when we got off to a quick start. However, for the first time in our program, we have a 1,000-yard passer to go with a 2,000-yard runner, so we’ve been more balanced this season than ever.
“Defensively, the development of our line has been the key. As that group has come along, that has made our entire defense better.”
The Red Devils (9-3) are led by that 2,104-yard runner, Austin Rettig (235 rushes, 41 touchdowns; 11 catches, 77 yards, 2); that 1,365-yard passer, Andrew Hunter (84-of-174 passing, 13 TDs, 14 picks; 61 rushes, 380 yards, 6); Xavier Martinez (65-of-74 extra points, 71 total points); and receivers Aaron Starr (19 grabs, 324 yards, 5 scores), Josh Elledge (18 for 334, 2) and Jared Green (13 for 210, 3).
They are led on defense — which gives up a mere 113.0 yards per game rushing and 73.4 yards passing — by Josh Elledge (49 solos and 39 assists, 22 for loss; 3 interceptions), Bryce Hartman (27 and 53, 21 for loss), Chase Glick (22 and 36, 15 for loss), Koltin Marquart (19 and 34), Matt Glick (16 and 34), Hunter (6 picks) and Aaron Starr (24 punts, 36.6-yard average).
“We have a lot of respect for the St. John’s coaches and program. A Todd Schulte team is always well-prepared, well-coached and well-disciplined; so are its coaches,” Leonard added. “It’s a solid team all over the place; we don’t see many weaknesses. They have really good linebackers and a really good backfield to start with. They want to run the ball as much as we do.
“Games like this — with two basically evenly-matched teams — come down to which team can make the fewest mistakes, whether turnovers, penalties, missed assignments, whatever.
“All three phases become so much important, especially special teams. A dropped punt snap can be a game-changer, like what happened in their game against Leipsic.”
Kickoff tonight is 7 p.m.